When is an eye doctor guilty of malpractice?

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Your vision is essential for providing you with important information about the world, and a loss of vision can be devastating. You can suffer serious emotional damage as well as a disconnect with the world as you’ve known it. If your vision has been compromised because of an ophthalmologist’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation through a medical malpractice claim.  Filing an ophthalmology malpractice claim

Understanding Ophthalmology Malpractice

The eye is a tremendously complex organ that works much like a camera. When rays of incoming light are refracted or bent by the cornea through the pupil, the lens is responsible for making sure the rays are focused at the back of the eye in an area known as the retina. The image is initially upside down, but the retina converts this image into electrical impulses transmitted to the brain via the optic nerve. When the brain translates these impulses, the image is converted back into an upright position.

The field of ophthalmology includes many different specialties:

  • Pediatric ophthalmology specialists treat children with genetic conditions that cause vision loss or impairment.
  • Cornea and external disease specialists focus on treating patients with refractive errors through corneal transplants and other surgical procedures.
  • Glaucoma specialists treat patients experiencing visual difficulty when the nerve connecting the eye to the brain has been damaged due to high eye pressure.
  • Neuro-ophthalmology specialists treat issues that overlap with the field of neurology such as optic nerve problems, visual field loss, unexplained visual loss, double vision, and abnormal eye movements.
  • Ophthalmic pathology specialists look at tissue from the eye and surrounding areas for signs of disease.
  • Ophthalmic plastic surgery specialists perform eyelid surgery, orbital surgery, and lacrimal surgery to alter a patient's physical appearance.

Ophthalmology malpractice cases can involve any position in which an eye doctor's conduct causes an injury to the eye or harm to the patient's vision. For example:

  • Failing to obtain informed consent before a risky surgical procedure
  • Delaying a diagnosis or a failure to diagnose a condition that results in vision loss or impairment
  • Delaying treatment or a failure to treat that results in vision loss or impairment
  • Reusing a single-use instrument and creating a risk of infection
  • Abandoning a patient
  • Failing to stay current on best practices for treating specific conditions
  • Neglecting to refer a patient to a qualified expert when the condition is outside the eye doctor’s training and experience
  • Making medication errors such as giving the wrong medication or the wrong dosage of a glaucoma treatment
  • Making surgical errors such as operating on the wrong eye when performing cataract surgery or LASIK eye surgery

Elements of a Successful Malpractice Claim

To win your ophthalmology practice claim, you need to establish four key points: duty, breach of duty, damages, and causation. Here is a brief explanation of each:

  • Duty means that the plaintiff was under the care of the defendant.
  • Breach of duty refers to the defendant's failure to provide medically appropriate care according to the accepted standards of ophthalmology.
  • Damages are the injuries you suffered as the result of the defendant's conduct such as blurred vision or blindness.
  • Causation refers to the direct cause and effect relationship between your condition and the ophthalmologist's conduct.

Of all these elements, establishing damages and causation are the most difficult. Testimony from other eye doctors with experience in treating patients with similar conditions to yours will prove vital in building a solid case.

Compensation for an Ophthalmology Malpractice Claim

An ophthalmology malpractice case can result in a sustainable settlement, since compensation is based on many different factors, including:

  • Past medical expenses
  • Anticipated future medical expenses
  • Lost wages and/or estimated loss of future earning capacity
  • Disability-related expenses such as cost of added household help
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of enjoyment of life due to vision loss
  • Psychological trauma associated with vision loss

Seeking Legal Representation

Malpractice law is complex, so it's vital that you enlist the services of an experienced attorney who can advocate for your right to a fair settlement. Neblett, Beard & Arsenault’s legal team is devoted to helping Louisiana residents who've been the victim of ophthalmology malpractice receive the compensation they need to move forward with their lives.


Richard J. Arsenault
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Recognized by several legal associations, Richard Arsenault has vast experience in complex litigation cases.